U.S. tells Supreme Court Guantanamo detainee can give limited testimony

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. flag flies at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) - The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden informed the Supreme Court that a suspected high-ranking al Qaeda figure held at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could provide limited testimony about his torture at the hands of the CIA.

Earlier this month, U.S. Supreme Court justices questioned why the U.S. government will not let the detainee, Abu Zubaydah, testify.

Zubaydah, a Palestinian man captured in 2002 in Pakistan and held by the United States since then without charges, repeatedly underwent waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning widely considered torture.

In response to questions from three justices during oral arguments earlier this month, Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher wrote a letter to the court on Friday informing the justices that Zubaydah could provide a declaration in the pending case.

"Nonetheless, the government would permit Abu Zubaydah, upon his request, to send a declaration that could then be transmitted to the Polish investigation", Fletcher wrote in the letter seen by Reuters on Sunday.

However, he added that any information could be subject to redaction if it might "prejudice the security interests of the United States."

Poland is believed to be the location of a "black site" where the CIA used harsh interrogation techniques against Zubaydah.

Zubaydah, now 50, has spent 15 years at Guantanamo and is one of many detainees still held there. He lost an eye and underwent waterboarding 83 times in a single month while held by the CIA, U.S. government documents showed.

He was "an associate and longtime terrorist ally of Osama bin Laden," the leader of the al Qaeda Islamist militant group killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011, a Justice Department filing said earlier.

Fletcher said in his letter that Zubaydah's testimony would not resolve the dispute that is currently before the justices concerning the scope of the "state secrets" privilege, a legal doctrine available to the government to protect information that it says may threaten national security.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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